Vakra Tunda (Invocation of Lord Ganesh)

Vakratunda Mahakaya
Surya Koti Samaprabha
Neervignum Kurume Deva
Sarva Karyeshu Sarvada

O Lord Ganesha possessing a large body
curved trunk, with the brilliance
of a million suns, please make all
my work free of obstacles—always.


About this prayer

This invocation prayer is often sung at the start of a satsang (gathering of devotees), kirtan session, or yagna (spiritual lectures and discourses). Lord Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles which is why we invoke this potential in us at the start of any auspicious event. In creating this environment in our mind, we aim to avoid being disturbed by aches or discomfort of the body, or the irrelevant distractions of the mind. We aim, like an elephant, to listen well to others, and to remember everything that we can apply in our lives.

Aarti – Om Jaye Jagdish Hare

Om jaye jagdeesh hare
Swami jay jagdeesh hare
Bhakth jano ke sankat
Daas jano ke sankat
Kshan me door kare
Om jaye jagdeesh hare 

O Lord! Victory to the Lord of the universe,
O Lord! O Master!
Victory to the protector of the needy.
He removes the afflictions of the devotees and of those who serve Him, in a split second.

Jo dhyave phal paave
Dukh bin se mann ka (2)
Sukh sampati ghar aave (2)
Kasht mite tan ka
Om jaye jagdeesh hare… 

Those who centre their mind in meditation
Their minds remain free from sorrow
May there be joy and prosperity in the home,
May the afflictions of the body end

Maatha pithaa tum mere
Sharan karu me kiski (2)
Tum bin aur ne dooja (2)
Aas karoona me jiski
Om jaye jagdeesh hare… 

You are my mother and father,
Whom else can I ask refuge from.
There is no one other than you,
The one on whom I cast my hopes.

Tum pooran parmathma
Tum antarayaami (2)
Paar bramh parmeshwar (2)
Tum sabke swami
Om jaye jagdeesh hare… 

You are the ancient supreme being,
O Master, you are the inner controller of all life.
You are the supreme Reality, the supreme Lord.
You are the master of everyone.

Tum karura ke saagar
Tum paalan karta (2)
May moorakh khal kaami
May sevak tum swami
Kripa karo bharta
Om jaye jagdeesh hare… 

You are an ocean of compassion,
You are the nurturer and nourisher
I am a mere fool and am lust ridden.
I am thy servant and thou my master.
Oh Master please be forgiving.

Tum ho ek agochar
Sabke praana pati (2)
Kis vidh miloon daya may
Kis vidh miloon kripa may
Tum ko mein kumati
Om jaye jagdeesh hare… 

You are the One witness, beyond the senses.
You are behind the life force and sentient activity.
O Compassionate One! With what means am I to meet to you.
O Kind One! With what means am I to meet to you.
This foolish one asks.

Deen bandhu dukh hartha
Tum rakshak mere
Swami rakshak tum mere
Apne haath utaoo
Apne sharan lagaao
Dvaar paraa hu tere
Om jaye jagdeesh hare… 

Friend to the poor and remover of sorrow
O Master you are my saviour.
Please lift thy hand (to bless me)
Offer me thy refuge
At thy feet

Vishay Vikaar mitaao
Paap haro deva (2)
Shradha  bhakti bhadao (2)
Santan ki seva
Om jaye jagdeesh hare… 

Please remove the agitation of my mind
O Master! Remove my sin.
Grow me in my devotion
Grow me in love
In eternal service to thee

Tana mana dhana hai tera
Sab kuch hai tera
Swami sab kuch hai tera
Teraa tuja ko arpan (2)
Kya Laage mera
Om jaye jagdeesh hare… 

My mind body and soul are yours
All these are yours and your alone
Oh Master all these are yours alone
What I offer you is already yours
What can I really call mine?


About this aarti

This is one of my favourite aarti’s, sung in love and reverence to Vishnu. I don’t think I fully understand it until I decided to write it out in English, with the help of my good friend Dr Milen Shah. The meaning is truly beautiful, and I especially like the last verse which I was surprised to find that some people don’t sing.

Understanding Seva

Amongst seekers, one word that we often see being used is seva. The common translation for the word seva is selfless service. But what is selfless service? How precisely do we define seva?And what is it’s purpose? I’ve been thinking about this for a while and thought I’d share my thoughts so far…

In the Bhagavad Gita, one path to the Divine revealed by Lord Krishna to Arjuna is the path of Karma Yoga, or union with the Supreme through the path of Action. In Karma Yoga the essential mindset is one in which we continue to engage with the World through action, but where we forego, or do not focus on, or get attached to the fruits of those actions.

As seekers, we often choose to start invoking this mindset in our lives by doing seva, or selfless service wherever possible. But what exactly does seva mean?

I was listening to a very interesting recording of a satsang, or workshop as he often calls it, by the teacher and renowned kirtan singer Krishna Das. In it he shared some stories of his guru Neem Karoli Baba, and in particular shared his guru’s remarks when his disciples asked about the seva the were doing. “Pah! Only God can do seva!” he exclaimed. What an interesting and revealing answer from this great Master.

I believe there are three forms of seva, each of which conditions us in different ways and which are linked to our internal spiritual growth

The first seva is where we work, often for a particular amount of time and for a cause that is deemed to be beneficial to society. We contribute our time and energy, but with our focus on the desired result. That result, if we are truly honest with ourselves is only partly related to the cause we are working on. Quite often it is equally related to other benefits that we might get from doing that work – social respect, acknowledgement, personal satisfaction, and yes more likes on facebook!

In doing seva, we start to associate with people that also offer similar contributions of time and energy and this creates a positive influence on our thoughts and takes us away from solely focusing on our own individual, minute problems to thinking of others. From this perspective, starting to do seva is a wonderful thing. However, with the focus constantly assessing and measuring what we feel we are getting out it, confusion can start clouding our minds and we can potentially end up adding unwanted layers onto the ego. Where this happens we quickly find such ‘seva’ becoming counter-productive is creating spiritual growth

The second type of seva is where the mindset shifts to a perspective in which a person starts to regard all work as none other than service to the Lord. In this view, action is not taken for any personal benefit, nor even for the benefit of society. It is taken only to please Him, to allow us to know Him, and to seek His love. The work is performed to the best of our ability but without any attention paid to the success or failure. All success and failure in such work is surrendered to Him. Wherever thoughts start to arise from the ego – thoughts of personal prestige or satisfaction, they are calmly and soothingly sent on their way with remembrance of His name. This is where the beauty of japa, or the practice of repetition of the Lord’s name is found.

Our attitude starts to change as we offer everything of ourselves, or as we continue to serve our higher self with a loving surrender of our lower self. We start finding gratitude for things regardless of the external situation, and this only fuels our sense of wanting to offer more.

If you think of a situation in which you have been incredibly grateful for something someone has done, does what we offer that person as thanks ever feel like enough? In the same way the devotee feels that everything offered to the Lord in the way of service is inadequate but strives to offer with all his or her heart and soul.

We desire to be only an instrument for the Lord and through every action we consciously strive to continue to cleaning and purifying ourselves so that we may be able to offer and serve more.

The third type of seva can be described as the fruit of the second type of seva described above. As a devotee continues to surrender not just his actions in good deeds, but in all activity, the lower self that is surrendered eventually becomes silent – and actions become self-less.

When we hear a beautiful song being played, our reaction is to be amazed at the musician and offer affection to the player. We don’t ever feel in awe of the harmonium or guitar or drum! In the same way, the devotee becomes that instrument of grace. Whatever is played is the Lord’s song and all success or failure is irrelevant to that instrument.

The body and mind of such a devotee become an instrument that is perfect for the Lord to use – like the flute of Lord Krishna, it is hollowed of all ego-centric thought. As divine breath flows through the flute, each note played by the Lord is clearly and effortlessly transformed to sweet music. Each action performed by is an action of seva – a direct service to the will of the Lord, the Universe, Love, and Divinity.

In contrast to the second type of seva, in this ultimate form of seva all action is not performed in search of love, but rather as an expression of love.

I believe this is what the wise master meant in his remarks to his devotees. When we start on our internal quest, we start trying to perform seva to start purifying ourselves and to set us on a path of yoga. It is when, through surrender and service we ourselves become selfless, and ultimately become the path itself, that our attempts to perform seva stop, and true seva begins to flow through us.

Why Do We Fail?

Hari Om friends!

Finally, I am returning to this blog after 4 long and unexpectedly challenging years in which I haven’t felt able to do any writing. The exact external circumstances and events that occurred are not so interesting – suffice to say that it was a period throughout which I was tested many times – physically, emotionally and spiritually. In truth, on several occasions I felt I failed which took me to some dark places. But ultimately, through His grace and through the love of those around me, I found my way back and now find myself in a new version of life that is fuelled by love, service and gratitude.

I know now that many have experienced some challenge like this in life – for each of us the exact nature of the challenge is unique to us but the effects on the mind and therefore your life are the same. I once heard a wise man say, the Lord doesn’t give you what you want, He gives you what you need.

Sometimes, what we need is to be shaken violently, to be pulled out of our comfort zones and back onto the path where we should be. This transition can be rough, but sometimes it’s necessary to give you the training for the life you are meant to lead. Because out of that struggle alone comes real strength. Not just mental or physical strength (although that too may be important for you). I mean a strength of conviction about who you are and what your purpose is. A rough uncut and dust-covered diamond must be cleaned, cut and polished many times before it becomes pure – a shining diamond radiating light in every direction.

Isn’t it interesting that some people have much more hardship whereas others seem to breeze through life? Of course there are many factors at play in life, but from a spiritual point of view perhaps it just that some of us need more polishing than others. With His grace hopefully one day we can be that bright illumined diamond.

The other thing that I found eventually comes from this type of struggle is gratitude. You realise that nothing you are is solely because of your own merit or effort. Everything you have become is a result of someone or something in your life that created that reality for you. It is only because of how strongly we identify with our personality that we assume that we have achieved something. Once you start to question what you have actually ever done yourself you come to some interesting answers. Interestingly, at one stage you even become grateful for even the struggle itself because you see the difference it has created in you.

From a practical point of view, in the hardest of these times what I found amazing was the strength I got from kirtan – simply keeping His Name with me wherever I went. In fact it continues to amaze me how powerful this technique is. Any time I felt my way was lost, I simply said his Name over and over again, chanting and singing simple kirtans whenever I was alone. Instantly, the mind gets snapped out of its constant pointless chatter and thrust back into a place of happiness and peace. Now whether there is some esoteric reasoning to this, or its just a potent form of NLP, I don’t really care – it works!

Luckily it seems there has recently been a huge surge of interest in kirtan music and you can find many offerings by amazing devotional artists online – try Spotify or Apple Music for starters. So even if you don’t know any chants or mantras you can find something you like and can connect with. In the coming months I will also add several links to offerings I come across that I like. It is a practice that works whatever beliefs, faith, or religion you follow.

So, while I continue on my path, I thought I would share this experience with you in case it can be of any help on your journey. Now I look forward to getting back to this blog and sharing again with you!

Narayan Narayan!!

Who is Hanuman?

Recently we enjoyed celebrating Hanuman Jayanti, the birthday of Hanumanji. In preparing for this very special day, I took some time to clarify in my mind what Hanuman – the superhero of the Ramayan epic – meant to me. After continuing to reflect on this during the 108 Hanuman Chalisas that we sang that day, I noted the following:

That force that roars silently from within, urging you, pushing you, to achieve absolute perfection in life – to love unconditionally, to serve without expectation, to surrender and offer every action to a higher noble Ideal.

That flame that, in the depths of your assumed despair, or at the heights of your alleged joy, will illuminate the path back home and irradicate the folly of your mind.

That strength that seeks to protect the good and wise that will nurture your vision, and crush all others that will distract you.

That form that meditates only upon the Truth, and is none other than that Truth.

That is Hanuman.

That Ideal is Ram.

Sabse Unchi Prem Sagai

sabse ūńcī prema sagāī
Love is the highest form of worship (or way to know the Lord)

duryodhana ko mevā tyāgo
sāga vidura ghara pāī

When Duriyodhan invited Krishna to his palace for a feast
Krishna instead found the house of his humble devotee Vidhurji

jūṭhe phala sabarī ke khāye
bahu vidhi prema lagāī
Shabri offered her half-eaten fruits to Lord Ram
With so much love this was done (so He would only receive the sweetest fruits)

prema ke basa arjuna ratha hāńkhyo
bhūla gaye ṭhakurāī
With such love, He rode Arjun’s chariot
And forgot He was actually himself a Prince

aisi prīti baḍhī vṛndāvana
gopina nāca nacāī

So great was the love in Vrindhavan
Govinda danced His Ras Lila with the gopis

sūra krūra is lāyaka nāhī
kaha lag karau baḍāi
Surdas says although I am unworthy
You still have mercy and give love to me
About this bhajan

What a wonderful composition by Surdas. Following each of the well known stories of Krishna and Ram, it shows how the Lord show his love to his devotees in seeing their love for Him. Truly, the Lord loves all but those who have pure love for Him are especially close to Him and become at one with Him.

Hanuman Chalisa

hanuman chalisaHanuman Chalisa
(many thanks to Kiran Jatania for providing English transliteration)

[DOHA]

Shree Guru Charan Saroj Raj, Nij Man Mukar Sudhari,
Barnau Raghuvar Bimal Jasu, Jo dayaku Phal Chari
With the dust of Guru’s Lotus feet, I clean the mirror of my mind and then narrate the sacred glory of Sri Ram Chandra, The Supreme among the Raghu dynasty. The giver of the four attainments of life.

Budhi heen Tanu Janike, Sumirow, Pavan Kumar,
Bal Buddhi Vidya Dehu Mohi, Harahu Kalesh Bikaar
Knowing myself to be ignorent, I urge you, O Hanuman, The son of Pavan! O Lord! kindly Bestow on me strength, wisdom and knowledge, removing all my miseries and blemishes.

 

[CHOPAI]

Jai Hanuman Gyan Guna Sagar
Jai Kipis Tihun Lok Ujagar

Victory of Thee, O Hanuman, Ocean of wisdom and virtue, victory to the Lord of the monkeys who is well known in all the three worlds

Ramdoot Atulit Bal Dhamaa,
Anjani Putra Pavansut naamaa.
You, the Divine messager of Ram and repository of immeasurable strength, are also known as Anjaniputra and known as the son of the wind – Pavanputra.

Maheveer Bikram Bajrangi,
Kumati Nivaar Sumati Ke Sangi.
Oh Hanumanji! You are valiant and brave, with a body like lightening. You are the dispeller of darkness of evil thoughts and companion of good sense and wisdom.

Kanchan Baran Biraaj Subesaa,
Kanan kundal kunchit kesa.

Shri Hanumanji’s physique is golden coloured. His dress is pretty, wearing ‘Kundals’ ear-rings and his hairs are long and curly.

Hath Bajra Aur Dhvaja Birjai,
Kandhe Moonj Janeu Saaje.
Shri Hanumanji is holding in one hand a lighting bolt and in the other a banner with sacred thread across his shoulder.

Shankar Suvan Kesari Nandan,
Tej Pratap Maha Jag Vandan.

Oh Hanumanji! You are the emanation of ‘SHIVA’ and you delight Shri Keshri.
Being ever effulgent, you and hold vast sway over the universe. You are worshipped and adored by all.

Vidyavaan Guni Ati Chatur,
Ram Kaj Karibe Ko Atur
Oh! Shri Hanumanji! You are the repository learning, virtuous, very wise and ever keen to do the work of Shri Ram,

Prabhu Charittra Sunibe Ko Rasiya,
Ram Lakhan Sita Man Basyia
You revel in listening to the stories of Lord Ram
You ever dwell in the hearts of Ram Sita and Lakshman.

Sukshma Roop Dhari Siyahi Dikhwana,
Bikat Roop Dhari Lank Jarawa

You appeared before Sita in a small form and spoke to her, while you assumed an awesome form and struck terror by setting Lanka on fire.

Bhim Roop Dhari Asur Sanhare,
Ramchandra Ke Kaaj Savare.

He, with his terrible form, killed demons in Lanka and performed the work of Shri Ramchandra.

Laye Sajivan Lakhan Jiyaye,
Shri Raghuvir Harashi Ur Laye.

When Hanumanji revived Lakshman alive after bringing ‘Sanjivni herb’ Shri Ram took him in his deep embrace, his heart full of joy.

Raghupati Kinhi Bahut Badaai,
Tum Mama Priya Bharat Sam Bahi.

Shri Ram lustily extolled Hanumanji’s excellence and remarked, “you are as dear to me as my own brother Bharat”

Sahastra Badan Tumharo Jas Gaave,
Asa Kahi Shripati Kanth Laagave.

Shri Ram embraced Hanumanji saying: “Let the thousand – tongued sheshnaag sing your glories”

Sankadik Brahmadi Muneesa,
Narad Sarad Sahit Aheesa

Sanak and the sages, Brahma, gods and the great saints,
Narada, Saraswati and the King of serpents

Yam Kuber Digpal Jahan Te,
Kabi Kabid Kahin Sake Kahan Te
…And even Gods like Yamraj, Kuber, and Digpal fail to narrate the breadth of Hanuman’s greatness.

Tum Upkar Sugrivahi Keenha,
Ram Miali Rajpad Deenha

Hanumanji! You rendered a great service for Sugriva, by uniting him with Shri Ram who installed him on the Royal Throne.

Tumharo Mantro Bibhishan Maana,
Lankeshwar Bhaye Sab Jag Jaana

By heeding your advice. Vibhushan became Lord of Lanka – this is known across the whole universe.

Yug Sahastra Jojan Par Bhanu
Leelyo Tahi Madhur Phal Janu
Though the sun is thousands of miles away,
You swallowed it, thinking it to be a sweet fruit.

Prabhu Mudrika Meli Mukh Mahee
Jaladhi Langhi Gaye Achraj Nahee
Holding the Lord’s ring in your mouth
It’s no surprise that you leapt over the ocean.

Durgaam kaj jagat ke jete
Sugam anugraha tumhre tete
Every difficult task in this world
Becomes easy by your grace.

Ram dware tum rakhvare
Hoat na agya binu paisare
You are the guardian at Ram’s door,
No one enters without your leave.

Sub sukh lahai tumhari sarna
Tum rakshak kahu ko dar na
Those who take refuge in you find all happiness
and those who you protect know no fear.

Aapan tej samharo aapai
Teenhon lok hank te kanpa
You alone can withstand your own splendor,
The three worlds tremble at your roar.

Bhoot pisach Nikat nahin aavai
Mahavir jab naam sunavai
Ghosts and goblins cannot come near,
When your name “Mahavir”, (he of great courage), is uttered.

Nase rog harai sab peera
Japat nirantar Hanumant beera
All disease and pain is eradicated,
Brave Hanuman, by constant repetition of your name.

Sankat se Hanuman chudavai
Man Karam Vachan dyan jo lavai
Hanuman releases from affliction
those who remember him in thought word and deed.

Sub par Ram tapasvee raja
Tin ke kaj sakal Tum saja
Ram, the ascetic, reigns over all,
but you carry out all his work.

Aur manorath jo koi lavai
Sohi amit jeevan phal pavai
One who comes to you with any yearning
obtains the abundance of the Four Fruits of Life.

Charon Yug partap tumhara
Hai persidh jagat ujiyara
Your splendor fills the four ages
your glory is renowned throughout the world.

Sadhu Sant ke tum Rakhware
Asur nikandan Ram dulhare
You are the guardian of saints and sages,
the destroyer of demons and the darling of Ram.

Ashta sidhi nav nidhi ke dhata
Us var deen Janki mata
You grant the eight powers and the nine treasures
by the boon you received from Mother Janaki.

Ram rasayan tumhare pasa
Sada raho Raghupati ke dasa
You hold the elixir of Ram’s name
and remain eternally his servant.

Tumhare bhajan Ram ko pavai
Janam janam ke dukh bisravai
Singing your praise, one finds Ram
and escapes the sorrows of countless lives.

Anth kaal Raghuvir pur jayee
Jahan janam Hari-Bakht Kahayee
At death one goes to Ram’s own city
or is born on the earth as God’s devotee.

Aur Devta Chit na dharehi
Hanumanth se hi sarve sukh karehi
Give no thought to any other deity,
worshipping Hanuman, one gains all delight.

Sankat kate mite sab peera
Jo sumirai Hanumat Balbeera
All affliction ceases and all pain is removed
by remembering the mighty Hanuman.

Jai Jai Jai Hanuman Gosain
Kripa Karahu Gurudev ki nyahin
Victory, Victory, Victory to Lord Hanuman!
Bestow your grace on me, as my Guru!

Jo sat bar path kare kohi
Chutahi bandhi maha sukh hohi
Whoever recites this a hundred times
is released from bondage and gains bliss.

Jo yah padhe Hanuman Chalisa
Hoye siddhi sakhi Gaureesa
One who reads this Hanuman Chaleesa
gains success, as Gauri’s Lord (Shiva) is witness.

Tulsidas sada hari chera
Keejai Das Hrdaye mein dera
Says Tulsi Das, who always remains Hari’s servant:
“Lord, make your home in my heart.”

[DOHA]

Pavantnai sankat haran,
Mangal murti roop
Ram Lakhan Sita sahit,
Hrdaye basahu sur bhoop

Son of the Wind, destroyer of sorrow, embodiment of blessing,
Live in my heart, King of Gods, together with Ram, Lakshman and Sita.

About this bhajan

Of all the bhajans and prayers, the Hanuman Chalisa is probably one of the most powerful for me. Written by Shri Tulsidasji who also wrote the Ram Charitra Manas (or Tulsi Ramayan), it invokes and celebrates the spirit of Hanuman – the Lord’s ultimate and dearest devotee. Many people sing this either once daily, or repeat it 7 times or 108 times in a single sitting! The aim of this repetition is to allow a reflection on all the qualities of Hanuman described in each verse. We often become, or imitate, what we admire – the ultimate aim therefore is to create an environment in the mind where these qualities can develop and shine.
It is said that Hanuman was both a master of all 3 paths to the Lord: knowledge, devotion, and service. What better ideal to follow and revere than Him?

At an earlier stage as I reflected on Shree Hanuman, there was some confusion that arose. How is it possible that we can worship a figure who Himself is a disciple of the Lord? I eventually realised that we not only can, but we must. To not understand this is to not understand the concept of God in any other way that as “the Man in the Sky”, which He certainly is not. Advaita Vedanta teaches us that there is none other than God that exists. The only obstacle in helping us see this is ignorance of our true nature. If this ignorance is removed, then our individuality dissolves and we are at one with Him. This is the state we describe as “Enlightened”. From the description given above, it is evident that Hanuman was an Enlightened soul, and therefore at one with the Lord. It is this IDEAL that we seek.

One of my favourite stories is when Hanuman first meets Lord Ram. During their mutual introduction, Shri Ramchandra asks Hanuman, “What is your relationship to me?”. Hanuman’s splendid reply, which captures in the most perfect way the relationship between man and the Lord, is as follows:

deha-buddhya tu daso’smi jiva-buddhya tvadamshakah | atma-buddhya tvamevaham iti me nishcita matih ||
“As a body, I am your servant; as an individual soul, I am a part of you and you are the whole; as the Self, we both are one. This is my firm conviction!”

Swami Tejomayanandaji – head of the Chinmaya Mission – has written a beautiful commentary on the Chalisa giving the full meaning underlying each verse. It is very much worth a read. I have found an online version here:
http://chinmayasaaket.org/articles/guruji/Hanuman_chalisa.pdf